Many years ago, I came across a different group, who went under the name “The Vietnamese Mountain Society For Poetry and Wine” – or something very similar at least. They were a terrorist group too, and only now, with the “Irish Dynamite Party of Violence,” have they lost their place in my affections.
Sadly, though, the name is almost certainly the invention of the penny dreadful that printed the deathless paragraph above. Doubly sad, because it might have served rather well as a nickname for the team whose feat in becoming the first professional side to win the FA Cup is “celebrated” in the same issue.
Blackburn Olympic – for it was they – beat the Old Etonians 2-1 after extra time, and were rewarded with some of the most shocking first night notices yet awarded. The amateurs hadn’t lost fair and square – they’d been rough-housed out of it, kicked down like a Victorian Brazil against Hungary.
(More beneath the cut)
Perhaps. At any rate, OE were a man down almost from the start, and effectively three down by the end of the ninety minutes.
But there is more than one way to wear a side down. OE were playing at what was effectively their home ground, the Oval. Olympic had had to make the still-strenuous journey down from the north (Olympic became the first team in the world known to have prepared anything like professionally for the game immediately before the trip). In 1880, OE had drawn another northern side, Darwen, Olympic’s great rivals, again at the Oval. When the first game ended tied after ninety minutes, OE declined to play extra time (as was their right by the rules then in existence) and insisted that Darwen drag themselves down to London on a later date for a replay. And, when that match too was tied, down to London again, for another. Darwen had only two professionals in their side, whose colleagues had had to work full shifts in the mill before setting out, and hadn’t the money to travel, being funded by a series of ever more desperate public subscriptions plus a paltry OE contribution of £5 to their costs.
Darwen lost the last replay by a cricket score. The 1883 Final, the last to feature an amateur side of ex-public schoolboys of that type, was karma.
In the 1880s, these encounters between old boy teams and factory workers revealed one other way in which a team can kick another off the park. The old boys hadn’t had to deal with an urban industrial upbringing with all its attendant hardships, instability and privation. So, when Old Etonians walked out onto the Oval pitch in 1883 alongside Olympic, they were bigger and taller, to an extent that seems to have surprised and disquieted even Victorian eyes. But not fitter..
The Irish Dynamite Party of Violence. Blackburn Olympic. Names that roll off the tongue. And Darwen? Darwen’s highest ever league position, once the league had finally rolled along, was 14th out of 14 in Division 1 in 1891-2. Earlier this year, the club were wound up in the High Court after a petition from ING Lease UK and Thwaites Brewery. They’d outlasted Olympic by 120 years. If you’re interested in Old Etonians, who are no longer quite so much taller than the rest of us, they’re here.